As usual, hard to believe that so much time has passed and I am only now updating this blog!
It has been a good and busy year; we have made some progress on the house, but not as picture-worthy as previous years. In the mean time, Tim and I have been enjoying our lives in this wonderful community!
Solar panels! When it snows, we have to “rake” off the snow (with what is called a roof rake). Even during short days (like now), we make a good amount of electricity, and in summer we make way more than we use. And a few weeks ago we had 2 Tesla Power Wall batteries installed in the basement. We are on the grid, and the batteries are great back-up for power outages. We are now about net zero for electricity in our all electric house (though we still have gas-powered vehicles for now). These photos are from last January:
In February, we started putting up some sheet rock, and later we rented a lift for putting it up on the ceilings. Of course, we first had to plan every ceiling light fixture, etc., and on some ceilings fitting the sheet rock between beams was challenging. We are not finished yet, and haven’t really started mudding the seams, because some other projects came up.
Around this time (once some sheet rock was up in the mud/laundry room) we splurged on a washer and drier! The drier is not only high efficiency, but is a heat pump drier, so no vent to the outside. It is really nice to do laundry at home.
Getting into mud season, we enjoyed Cabin Fever University again (local folks do various presentations and workshops — travelogs, basket-making, etc.), and the season ended with a terrific rock-n-roll dance party, for which I made a cake (the woman who started CFU was Eva):
And a few weeks later, we had visits from a porcupine (above).
Around this time our local Strafford Energy Committee had a tour of efficient houses, and we were one of the three houses! Lots of fun showing off our house, and Tim did a great job of explaining the technical details.
The snow was pretty much gone by mid-April, and we had the snow peas planted a few days later (covered with newspaper in the photo). The straw bales were pretty much done for, so Tim dug the rotted straw into the beds and in the process hauled out three, 300-pound boulders.
Well, we thought snow was over, but no! Lots of spring flowers were already blooming when this came on May 15, giving snow hats to the hyacinths! Happily it melted fast, and spring really got going after that. On the left of the right-hand photo below you can see the wood shed is pretty empty…
In between getting the vegetable garden under way, Tim collected wood to split for next year’s woodpile, and he figured out how to frame a closet in the mud room against the plastered straw bale wall with no studs for attaching the frame! Then he sheet rocked behind our makeshift closet upstairs and constructed a much better framework for us. (Before, the shelves etc. were attached directly to the studs, now covered with sheet rock.)
By early July we were enjoying lots of flowers, and the vegetable garden was coming right along.
We had a beautiful hanging basket this summer, and by the end of July the vegetable garden was going crazy!
The big project this fall was insulating the basement, to meet Efficiency Vermont requirements. Last spring Tim had obtained many sheets of rigid foam insulation, seconds, at a great price. (These were stacked high on the 3-season porch, so we didn’t get that finished this year.) He had to figure out how to attach studs to the very hard cement walls of the basement, and have them end several inches above the floor. Then fit the rigid insulation between the studs, and then finish with sheet rock. And he had to do this behind the water heater and Heat Retention Ventilator and other items, and take down his wood rack and put it back up again, and move lots of other stuff to get at the walls. Whew! He finished before the deadline this fall! This work took a lot of time, and Susan really couldn’t help much. And a monarch butterfly came to visit….
By mid September our line of sugar maples was turning color, and I made of bouquet of end-of-the-season flowers.
By early October the trees were really starting to turn, beautiful around our house (left) and nearby (right). The brightest colored trees are usually the red maples; sugar maples are not as spectacular. In the right hand photo is a lovely timber-framed cow shed (not quite finished yet!) that was made when the national timber-framers association had their annual conference here in Strafford.
We had a prolific garden this year! Didn’t take tons of photos, but had lots of tomatoes, beans, potatoes, cucumbers, summer & zucchini squashes, kale, chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and winter squash. We enjoyed these fresh, and had plenty to fill the freezer, can some pickles, etc. After the first “light” frost in early October, we picked our bumper crop of butternut and delicata squashes, and by early November all the colored leaves were down and the larch trees were turning golden, including the one at the top of our driveway.
We have had ups and downs of temperature this fall and some November snow that all melted, but it is settling into real winter now, with a few inches of snow on the ground and a low of zero last night. Our house is cozy and we enjoy a fire in the wood stove in the evenings (especially the cold ones!).
This was the mid-November snow, and you can see we got our wood shed pretty filled up! The other roofed woodpile, to the right, is wood for sugaring this coming February.
In between everything else, we have been active in the community and following our interests. Tim kept up an impressive rowing schedule spring through fall, with frequent races on the weekends. While he didn’t win any event, his finishes were better than last year and he is happy! In addition, he has spent many hours in his work as a Lister for our town. (Listers keep the “grand list” of properties and their values, used for computing taxes.) Susan has kept up her music, continuing to play recorders with a near-by ensemble, plus playing duets with another Strafford recorder player (we are loving Telemann and Bach!), and occasionally performing for a wonderful 95-year-old friend! Susan has been active regarding Climate Change, attending several events in VT and active in the Two Rivers Action Coalition, an area climate action group. At the end of the summer Susan became the “moderator” for our local Strafford Climate Action Group, which has organized several events and will be working to support proposed VT legislation to decrease carbon emissions here. One event was our local participation in Climate Strike Friday in September (about 100 people participated!) and at least a few of us are still on the corner every Friday 7:15-8:30 AM. Here we are in front of Barrett Hall in South Strafford, where lots of folks drive by on the way to the school, or to the Interstate:
And in November Susan had fun making another “green” gingerbread house for the raffle fund-raiser for our wonderful local public library, with solar panels on the roof and chickens in the yard!
So, that is a very brief overview of our year with our house. We took a couple of short trips out of town, and enjoyed a visit from our son Ethan. Even though the house is not finished inside, we have loved having friends over (no one up here has any problem with “unfinished” when it comes to houses!). We are happy!
In the coming year house-building priorities will be to finish the sheet rocking, finish the 3-season porch, tile the front hall and behind and under the wood stove, and build the stairs to the basement. We’ll see what we get done!
We are hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season, and all the best in the New Year!